Sally Ride

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Dr. Sally Ride

Dr. Sally Kristen Ride (May 26, 1951, Los Angeles - July 24, 2012) was the first American woman in space. She had a doctorate in Physics (Stanford, 1978), as well as a BSc in Physics, BA in English in 1973, and a MSc in Physics.

NASA biography


Ride was selected as an astronaut candidate by NASA in January 1978. In August 1979, she completed a one-year training and evaluation period, making her eligible for assignment as a mission specialist on future Space Shuttle flight crews. She subsequently performed as an on-orbit capsule communicator (CAPCOM) on the STS-2 and STS-3 missions.
STS-7 Mission patch
Dr. Ride was a mission specialist on STS-7, which launched from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on June 18, 1983. She was accompanied by Captain Robert L. Crippen (spacecraft commander), Captain Frederick H. Hauck (pilot), and fellow mission specialists Colonel John M. Fabian and Dr. Norman E. Thagard. This was the second flight for the Orbiter Challenger and the first mission with a 5-person crew. During the mission, the STS-7 crew deployed satellites for Canada (ANIK C-2) and Indonesia (PALAPA B-1); operated the Canadian-built Remote Manipulator System (RMS) to perform the first deployment and retrieval exercise with the Shuttle Pallet Satellite (SPAS-01); conducted the first formation flying of the orbiter with a free-flying satellite (SPAS-01); carried and operated the first U.S./German cooperative materials science payload (OSTA-2); and operated the Continuous Flow Electrophoresis System (CFES) and the Monodisperse Latex Reactor (MLR) experiments, in addition to activating seven Getaway Specials. Mission duration was 147 hours before landing on a lakebed runway at Edwards Air Force Base, California, on June 24, 1983.
STS 41-G Mission patch

Dr. Ride served as a mission specialist on STS 41-G, which launched from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on October 5, 1984. This was the largest crew to fly to date and included Captain Robert L. Crippen (spacecraft commander), Captain Jon A. McBride (pilot), fellow mission specialists, Dr. Kathryn D. Sullivan and Commander David C. Leestma, as well as two payloads specialists, Commander Marc Garneau and Mr. Paul Scully-Power. Their 8-day mission deployed the Earth Radiation Budget Satellite, conducted scientific observations of the earth with the OSTS-3 pallet and Large Format Camera, as well as demonstrating potential satellite refueling with an EVA and associated hydrazine transfer. Mission duration was 197 hours and concluded with a landing at Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on October 13, 1984.

In June 1985 Dr. Ride was assigned to the crew of STS 61-M. Mission training was terminated in January 1986 following the Space Shuttle Challenger accident. Dr. Ride served as a member of the Presidential Commission investigating the accident. Upon completion of the investigation she was assigned to NASA Headquarters as Special Assistant to the Administrator for long range and strategic planning.

Post Astronaut

In 1989, Ride joined the faculty at UCSD as a Professor of Physics and Director of the University of California’s California Space Institute. In 2001 she founded her own company, Sally Ride Science to pursue her long-time passion of motivating girls and young women to pursue careers in science, math and technology. The company creates entertaining science programs and publications for upper elementary and middle school students and their parents and teachers.

Long an advocate for improved science education, Dr. Ride has written five science books for children: To Space and Back; Voyager; The Third Planet; The Mystery of Mars; and Exploring Our Solar System. She has also initiated and directed education projects designed to fuel middle school students' fascination with science.

Ride has been a member of the President's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology and the National Research Council's Space Studies Board, and has served on the Boards of the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, the Carnegie Institution of Washington, and the NCAA Foundation. Ride was a Fellow of the American Physical Society, a member of the Pacific Council on International Policy, and currently serves on the Boards of the Aerospace Corporation and the California Institute of Technology. She is the only person to have served on the Commissions investigating both the Space Shuttle Challenger and Space Shuttle Columbia accidents.

Ride received numerous honors and awards. She was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame and the Astronaut Hall of Fame, and has received the Jefferson Award for Public Service, the von Braun Award, the Lindbergh Eagle, and the NCAA’s Theodore Roosevelt Award. She has also twice been awarded the NASA Space Flight Medal.[1]


Ride was married to astronaut Steve Hawley. They divorced in 1987.[2] Later she had a 27-year relationship with Tam O’Shaughnessy, a professor emerita of school psychology at San Diego State University. O'Shaughnessy and Ride wrote several books together, and O’Shaughnessy was also chief operating officer and executive vice president of Ride's company.[2]

Ride died at age 61 after losing the battle with pancreatic cancer. She had authored an obituary which announced that she was a lesbian.[2]


  1. Ride's biography as released by NASA (2006)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Suzi Parker. "Sally Ride didn't want to be a gay icon", Washington Post, July 24, 2012. Retrieved on July 25, 2012. 

External links


A "Sally Ride" is also street slang for tripping on Salvia divinorum. Parents should be aware that students who seem to talk about Sally Ride a lot might not actually be interested in the space program or science, but are actually using coded jargon for drugs.